Week in Pop: BSKi, The Ruby Suns, Tunabunny

Sjimon Gompers

Behind & beyond the celebrity masquerades with your heroes Tunabunny; photographed by Jennie Cain.

The Ruby Suns

The Ruby Suns’ own ruby son Ryan McPhun; photographed by David Torch.

An artist who needs little to no introduction—California by New Zealand & currently based out of Oslo, Norway artist Ryan McPhun is The Ruby Suns who presents the world premiere of the wildly adventurous & ambitious album Sprite Fountain available now from Sellout! Music. From the self-titled in 20016, Sea Lion from 2008, Fight Softly in 2010 & Christopher circa 2013 released respectively through Sub Pop & Memphis Industries; McPhun’s Sprite Fountain exhibits one of the artist’s most mature statements to date as a result of starting a family of his own & his own immersion in the eclectic art scenes in Oslo. What began in an ancient Asker, Observatoriet schoolhouse studio located around central Oslo & Ryan’s own home digs Grünerløkka, Oslo; the rest of the record was a result of cozying up to the Spice Boys studio located in Copenhagen that were later finalized in an eighteenth century villa based out of Chelva, Spain. Bevan Smith (of Introverted Dancefloor/Signer) who also performs live with Ruby Suns helped out with the final mix of the album with the aid of his Eventide Harmonizer. The result is an album experience that is truly a work of art that is in a class of it’s own brilliant design.

Sprite Fountain is something of an international audio spectacle of wild eyed achievement that resembles very little else you may heard previously from anyone. Ryan McPhun brings about all the exhilaration of a day spent at an amusement park with the bright burning sun glow of “Waterslide” that starts the narrative with the design of an oasis-esque paradise that is certain to delight all who listen. But what is not known is that from here rich harmonies ruminate over observations as heard on the restrained “Blankee”, as searches for senses of security & more are then channeled through youthful excursions & elaborate illustrations of mischief on the imaginative “Pram Gang”. Ryan casts an illuminating veneer that makes every sound in every song reverberate as if it descended from another star as enjoyed on “The Zipper”, to the off-kilter spin cycle of “Title of His Hat” that is certain to open your eyes to a host of ingenious rhythm arrangements.

Ryan from The Ruby Suns continues to entertain your mind with the elements of constant surprise where no progression is made in predictable forms of expected convention. Take for example “Gatrapa” that is a soft pop number that is turned inside out into an odyssey of intrigue & wow for the entrity of the senses to intake with a newfound sense of happiness. “Blåhvalene” is a romantic dance number to slow dance to with your significant other as the day’s sun sets to the transition of twilight that enters the night with an assortment of inventive harmonies that are unlike anything else you have ever heard. Like freak psych pop from an alternate dimension, “K Rd Woody” operates in psychotropic swaths of inspired impetus that spins off it’s own enthralled axis as “King Cake” is an exercise of really clever harmonies that updates your Wilson brothers favorites further into the current day cultural climate.

The Ruby Suns’ own Ryan McPhun took the time to talk to us in the following candid interview exchange:

Walk us through your experiences from California, Auckland (NZ) to Oslo, Norway and how your travels and the places you have lived & been to have continued to inspire The Ruby Suns.

When I first moved to NZ in 2002, I fairly quickly joined a few bands made up of people a bit older than me who had impressive record collections so I got into a bunch of stuff through them. I’d also flip through radio stations at night and found a great Māori / Pacifica station playing strummy sing along-y folk songs. I was inspired by that kind of stuff. My tastes twisted and turned fairly regularly though. When my buddy, Bevan Smith, an electronic musician/producer and sound artist, joined the Ruby Suns in early 2009, he pointed me to a bunch of new sounds and textures and my palette gained a few hues accordingly. Touring a bunch was also a pretty great way to hear new stuff. Being able to play at festivals and wander into tents and stages and see amazing stuff from all over the world was really special.

When I moved to Oslo I was limited by the amount of gear and the lack of space I had to make music. I started this last record in a small apartment in the middle of Oslo with a guitar, a synth, some toy percussion and my Eventide H3000 Harmonizer (FX Processor). I travelled to Copenhagen to record drums at my friend’s studio since I didn’t have a kit or a place to play one in Oslo. These limitations were kind of exciting. I had to put together a lot of the songs without drums or with some placekeepers and My Eventide Harmonizer became my best friend. We were pretty close before though too. Eventually I met more people here in Oslo and was able to finish up the productions in other studios.

What sorts of epiphanies did you have while making the very much inspired Sprite Fountain record?

When I started out with this record I was thinking it might be with a new project. The last record was an attempt at a glistening pop thing – more shiny than experimental – and this one, though still pop, is much more of a mess. A nice mess though. I was getting back into noisier and messier and older music like I had been with the Sea Lion record. I knew that this new stuff was going to take a while to finish and my contracts had finished for both my North American and European labels, so the record’s future was very uncertain. Since I had no proof it would ever be released I had nothing to lose so I just went where the songs took me, regardless of genre or instrumentation. I Just said ‘Fuck it’ really and then when it came time to decide on what to call the record I said ‘Fuck it’ again. The Ruby Suns has always just been me experimenting in the studio so it seemed silly making a new project that was also just me experimenting in the studio.

Ryan McPhun of The Rub Suns; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Can you elaborate on how your previous output from over the past decade has informed how you approach the musical composition process now?

As I said before, I usually try to change tack a bit with each record so sometimes that means ripping up the cheat sheet and starting over. Sometimes I see my older records as my own goal post and I want to run in the opposite direction, but sometimes not. One thing that I got back into with this record was doing lots of little shifts and changes throughout some of the songs. Songs where I couldn’t tell you what the chorus is and songs that have 10 different parts. One song is a 16 chord sequence repeated 3 times. I guess a little of this jittery tendency can be found in all my records.

Artists & icons that have spoken to you lately?

I was just at Primavera Sound playing drums with Lawrence Arabia and I was a fan before but Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express playing the Junun record totally blew me away. It was one of those live concert experiences where you’re smiling from the first note to the last. That doesn’t happen too often. I was nervous that their setup wouldn’t work so well on a big honky festival stage but it sounded incredible. I couldn’t really be effusive enough about that show. Oh, and then we saw Grace Jones the next night!

Hopes & meditations for tomorrow, 2017 as a whole, 2018, etc?

I’ve been rehearsing with a new band of Norwegians here in Oslo. I’m usually a control freak self in the practice room. Telling the drummer exactly which fills to play and how to play them, finding all the sounds for the keyboard player, and helping the bass player with his foot pedal chain. I’m a bloody tyrant I tell ya. SO, I really need to work on my Norwegian curse words so they don’t get the upper hand and insult me in front of me without my knowledge. So, all going smoothly, I hope that we can play as much as possible, though it might have to just be Europe for the time being.

Parting words of advice & wisdom that you can impart upon your listeners, fans, readers, and so forth?

Me give advice? Sheesh. Uh, believe in your damn self and also open the god damned plastic cereal bag with scissors or just let me do it!

The Ruby Suns’ Sprite Fountain is available now from Sell Out! Music.

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